Out of an Overflowing Heart
October 18th, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
OUT OF AN OVERFLOWING HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
10-18-81 10:50 a.m.
This is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The title of the message is Out Of an Overflowing Heart. In the beautiful selection from God’s Word that you read just now together, in the eighth chapter of the Book of 2 Corinthians: "Brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God" [2 Corinthians 8:1]; when that was translated in 1611; why, it meant a whole lot to those people who read it. It does not mean much to me today – "we do you to wit." If you were to come up to me and say that, I would say, "Now you have got a screw loose" – "we do you to wit." It is a translation of one Greek word: gnorizomen, gnorizomen; ginoskō, "to know"; gnorizomen, "we want you to know, I want to tell you." That is the way we would translate it today; "we tell you something" – and that something is beautiful, speaking of the people in Macedonia – "out of their deep poverty, their riches abounded to their liberality" [2 Corinthians 8:1, 2].
I just cannot imagine that. The poorer they were, the more they gave. Then he cites a reason for it, and in my humble judgment there is no more beautiful verse in all literature, and that includes the Bible, than the one Paul wrote here, saying the reason that lay back of that beautiful liberality in Macedonia, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" [2 Corinthians 8:9].
Now, I am going to read a miracle in the life of our Lord, and as I read it I want you to tell me your impression you get from the story; then I am going to ask you about it. Luke chapter 17, verses 11 to 19. Luke 17:11-19: "It came to pass, as Jesus went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee" [Luke 17:11]. He went a long way around. "And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off" [Luke 17:12]. By commandment they could not come nigh. "And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them, He said unto them" – according to the law now, "Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were healed" – they were cleansed [Luke 17:13-14] – all ten of them. "And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And he fell down on his face at Jesus feet, giving Him thanks: and" – he was an alien, he was a stranger to the covenant blessings of Israel, "he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? [but] where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this alien, stranger. And then the Lord said to that Samaritan, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole" [Luke 17:15-19]. Not only cleansed on the outside, but saved on the inside.
Now, when I read that, what is your impression? Tell me honestly now, what remained impressive upon your hearts when I read that story? Was it the omnipotence of Jesus? Was it that? When I read that story, is that the thing that impressed your heart, the omnipotent power of the Lord Christ? With a word He could heal ten men.
Have you ever seen leprosy? I have seen many, many, many lepers. It is an awesome disease. The extremities of your body fall off. They decay. They rot. Your fingers and your hands fall off. Your toes and your feet fall off. Your nose falls off. Your ears fall off. They decay. They become abscesses and sores; they are running ulcers. I cannot imagine it. And it was incurable in that day. [It] still is for the most part today.
Think of the omnipotence of our Lord that with a word could heal ten of them. Is that what impressed you in that story? No. You didn’t even particularly think about that, the power of Jesus to heal. What did you think when I read that story? Did you think of the omniscience of our Lord? He knew that as they made their way to the priests, they would be healed [Luke 17:14]. Did you think about that? No. Never entered your mind, the omniscience of Jesus. He knows everything, and He knew that. But that never impressed you. It never entered your mind.
What impressed you in that story? Was it the far-famed reputation of our Lord? Passing at a distance, those ten lepers had heard of the wondrous, ableness of this healer and Prophet from Nazareth and Galilee; and they lifted up their voices and called to Him [Luke 17:12-13]. Did that enter your mind, the able reputation for healing that Jesus possessed? Did that enter your mind? No. It never entered your mind. What did impress you as I read that story?
It was this: that out of ten men that were healed, nine of them walked away and never even thanked the Lord. Just one of them, and he a stranger, fell at His feet and said, "Thank You, Jesus" [Luke 17:15-16]. That is what impressed you. And that is what impressed Jesus. He was amazed. He was astonished. Out of ten men healed, nine of them went on their way [Luke 17:17-18]. You see, they were busy.
Wherever it was that that terrible disease had interdicted and interfered and intervened in their lives, they just picked it up right there and went on about their business. Some of them were involved in pleasure. They just picked up where they left off, to enjoy the day, or the night, or the season. Some of them had future plans, and they immediately went into the business of taking care of those plans. They sort of received the healing as though it was owed them. It was an obligation of God to them, so they just accepted it as something received that they deserved and went right on.
When you think of those men and their position, their traumatic life, oh, you cannot imagine what they did. They were interdicted by law from fellowshipping, from being present where people were. If they came anywhere nigh, they had to put their hand over their mouth like this and call loudly, "Unclean!" [Leviticus 13:45]. And when that call came, "Unclean!" why, the people fell back and away. Their food was brought to them by relatives, if they ate at all, and set on a rock somewhere, and then they came after the others who brought it had left. And they lived among the tombs or among the rocks. Their life was unthinkable. And yet they were healed, they were cleansed, they were made whole. And nine of them walked away with no thought of gratitude for Him who had healed them.
Didn’t that impress you? And doesn’t it impress you that one of them did thank Jesus? He came and fell at His feet and thanked the Lord [Luke 17:15-16]. And the Lord had a special blessing for Him. Not only healed in his physical frame, whole again; but he was healed in his heart and in his soul [Luke 17:14, 19]. He was a new creation in Christ Jesus.
Well, I think of me, and I think of you, and I think of us. Lord, Lord, like golden links of mercy, my every hour is filled. My every day is blessed. Lord, Lord, how good You have been to me, and how good You are to us. The psalmist said it, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits" [Psalm 68:19], just bears us down with a load of blessings. "Many, O Lord my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee: if I would declare and speak of them, there are more than can be numbered" [Psalm 40:5]. Lord, You are so good to me. If I were to thank Thee for each one, it would be like thanking Thee for each sand on the seashore, or each star in the chalice of the sky. How good God is to us!
Remember the beautiful one hundred third Psalm: "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me" – every fiber of my being, every moment of my thinking – "bless His holy name. . . . forget not all His benefits" [Psalm 103:1, 2]. And then he proceeds to name them there [Psalm 103:3-19]. Or just once again, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" [Psalm 116:12]. And then he starts naming the things he is going to do, he says, to show his gratitude to God for His wonderful remembrances [Psalm 116:13-19].
Now, that’s the response of us human beings. From the beginning, we’re all alike. It isn’t that that psalmist is unusual or peculiar that he thanks God. And it isn’t that that Samaritan was aberrated when he fell at the feet of Jesus. It was those nine that were forgetful. But the normal response toward God is, "O Lord, what shall I render unto Thee for all of Thy goodnesses and Thy benefits toward me?" [Psalm 116:12]. I say, that’s the response from the beginning.
There is a translation in the King James Version of the Bible that sort of hides away a real and fundamental response of the human heart. In the Book of Genesis, when it tells the story of Abel and Cain, the Bible says that Abel was a shepherd, he kept the flock [Genesis 4:2]. And he took of the firstlings of his flock and he brought it to God. And it says that Cain was a farmer, he was a tiller of the soil. So he brought the firstfruits of the soil, and he brought them to God [Genesis 4:3-4]. Now in the translation of the Bible, it says that Abel brought an offering to the Lord, the firstlings of his flock. And Cain brought an offering to the Lord, the fruit of the ground. Now the trouble about the translation is minchah, translated "sacrifice" or "offering," is all right. That’s fine. All through the Bible, you will find it often translated that, minchah: "Abel brought a minchah to the Lord." "Cain brought a minchah to the Lord." And all through that Hebrew Old Testament you will find a minchah brought to the Lord, an offering, a sacrifice. But dear people, minchah is the Hebrew word for gift; gift, like a wedding gift, like a Christmas gift. Abel brought a minchah to the Lord, and Cain brought a minchah to the Lord [Genesis 4:3-4]. It was a natural response. That’s just the way you are made. Full of gratitude and thanksgiving, and you feel, "Lord, Lord, this is something out of my soul, out of an overflowing heart" – a minchah for the Lord.
Now I say, all through the Bible will you find that. It is a natural response. When Abraham came back from a victory that God gave him, the fourteenth chapter of Genesis says that he came before Melchizedek, who is the priest of El Elyon, the Most High God [Genesis 14:18-19]. And he gave to the priest Melchizedek one-tenth of everything that he had [Genesis 14:20]. My brother, that was four hundred thirty years before the Law. That’s a long time, four hundred thirty years before the Law, before Moses. When Abraham stood in the presence of the priest of the Most High God, he gave him a minchah, one-tenth of everything that he possessed, out of gratitude, just out of the love of his heart.
In the story of Jacob, who became Israel; when he went away to Padan Aram, sent away by his mother Rebekah [Genesis 27:42-45], a forlorn sojourner and pilgrim, not knowing what awaited him, going to people he had never seen, in a land he had never known; at Bethel, Jacob said to God, "O blessed God, if You will take care of me" – and he spelled it out; "Lord, if You will give me something to eat, if You will feed me, and Lord, if You will give me something to wear, if You will clothe me, Lord, out of everything You give me, one-tenth will I give to Thee" [Genesis 28:20-22], three hundred fifty years before the Law. It’s a natural, normal response. It’s just the way you feel. And I feel that. You do, too.
If a man were to come up to me and say, "Preacher, I will give you a million dollars for that eye." I would say, "Are you serious?" "I give you two million dollars for those two eyes." My brother, if he offered me a billion dollars for my eyes, I wouldn’t take it. I wouldn’t do it. Lord, Lord, what did I do for my two eyes? I didn’t do anything. God’s omnipotent hands shaped them and gave them, gave them to me. Lord, Lord, how I thank Thee for my two eyes, and my gratitude becomes overwhelming. Lord, Lord, I can hear. I can speak. I can move my hand. I can walk. And Lord, Lord, a thousand blessings attend my way every day, every day. I am debtor. I could never repay what God has done for me. Beside the family, beside the church, beside you, beside my Savior, beside my promised home in heaven, beside the forgiveness of my sins, Lord, Lord, I couldn’t help but be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving to God. And to bring to God a minchah, a gift, an offering, it’s something I want to do. I feel like doing it. I am glad to do it.
Now, I am not denying that we are under commandment, and we are under obligation, and we are under duty in many, many things of this life. We are commanded, under the Law, in Leviticus 27:30, the tithe is the Lord’s. It is holy unto the Lord [Leviticus 27:32]. The same thing is reiterated in Numbers chapter 18 [Numbers 18:24-28]. [The] same thing is reiterated in Deuteronomy chapter 12 [Deuteronomy 12:6, 11]. [The] same thing is reiterated in Malachi 3:10. The same thing is reiterated a thousand times in the Bible. I am under command, under duty, under obligation. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 23:23: "These things ye ought to do," paying a tithe out of everything that was possessed. But O Lord, I hate to come before Thee in the spirit of a craven slave. I am commanded to do this.
I was a country preacher, as you know, for about ten years; lived out in the open country and in small villages. And I used to live with tenant farmers, with sharecroppers. Here is a man who had another man’s farm, and he tilled it. And then at the end of the fall, at this time of the year, he would give the man that owns the farm a certain part of the crop. He was a sharecropper. By duty and by obligation and by contract, he gave it to him. Well, a man is under obligation to support his family. He is under obligation to take care of his children. He’s under obligation to try to do what’s right and pay his debts and all. But man, I would hate to think that I supported my family under obligation. I would hate to think I supported my children because of duty, or that I had to. How infinitely better, "I am so glad I can do this. I am so grateful to God I can take care of my children, or support my family, and be good to these that are dear to me"; no obligation, no coercion, no duty, just doing it out of the overflowing of my heart. I would love to think we do that with God. Lord, Lord, You do not have to coerce me or command me or threaten me. It is just one of the privileges of my life, Lord, and I am so glad I can do it. I am so grateful, Lord. I could never pay Thee for all of Your benefits. Never.
Now, I want to take a moment to speak of something in our church life, and something that we are going to try to do. All of you who are in our service who belong to the church know that about, oh a month ago, something like that, I brought to our people a deep persuasion that came out of an experience with the Lord, and I asked our men to place in our 1982 giving program a million dollars for our denominational mission cooperative endeavor.
Well, I want to say a word about that. There is no church in Christendom that ever attempted anything like that. No church ever even thought about such a thing as that. Yet I stood here in this sacred place, behind this pulpit desk, and asked our men publicly to place in our giving program a million dollars for our mission enterprise in the Baptist denomination. That meant that we have a total now, in our giving program, a good deal above two million dollars for the ministry of outreach beyond this church, and one million of it for the denomination.
I have several things, briefly, that I would like to say about that. Number one is this: we belong to that denomination. We are a part of it. This First Baptist Church in Dallas has been the key church of our Southern Baptist denomination for a century or more. We belong to it. We helped build it. And we have no right to speak to it, unless we support it. I have no right to speak to the Lutherans. I am not a Lutheran. I don’t support the Lutherans. I have no right to speak to the Episcopalians. I am not an Episcopalian. We don’t support the Episcopalians. I have no right to speak to the Presbyterians, or those other dear people. I am a Baptist. This church is a Southern Baptist church, and if we speak to the people of our communion, I must support them, if I have a right to speak to them. And I want to do it graciously, and largely, and magnificently, and generously.
Another thing: I was president of that Southern Baptist Convention. I have been preaching to it for over fifty years. I don’t exaggerate it when I say to you that ninety-nine percent or more of our Southern Baptist people are just like us. They are fundamental. They believe the Bible is the Word of God. They are Christ-honoring. They are mission-minded.
I know that in so large a group – there are more than thirteen million – I know that in so large a group you have some termites. You have some rats. I realize that. But my brother, we are not to burn down the barn just to get rid of the rats or the termites. Let us address them, and let us stand by our people and the institutions they built, and let us help keep them close to the Word of God and near to the heart of Christ.
Sweet people, I don’t exaggerate again when I tell you that the denomination and its institutions represent the blood and the tears and the sacrifice of our forefathers. Are we going to bow out and leave those great inheritances to these who are not worthy? It is unthinkable. It would be indefensible. So our church takes its place, a large one, in the support of our Baptist communion. And as such, we walk with our brethren, loving Jesus, preaching the infallible, inerrant Word of God, and trying to win a lost humanity to the blessed Savior. That’s just my heart, and it’s in your hands. Whether or not we respond is in your soul. I just believed that when I brought it to the people and asked our people to do it, I just believed that they will and they would.
I have one other little comment to make about it, and that’s this. Sweet people, it is infinitely better that we minister faithfully, not sporadically, adventitiously, but that Sunday by Sunday, and month by month, and year by year, we support the great mission enterprises of our Lord, steadily. Let me illustrate the thing: even this last week, I was talking to a man about the poor here in the city of Dallas, and the sub-marginal who live in so many areas of our city. And they were telling about this effort, and about that, and that one over there. I said, "That’s fine. That’s fine. I thank God for anybody that gives a Thanksgiving basket, and praise God for them. And I thank anybody that at Christmastime tries to remember the poor, I thank God for them. But," I said, "we do not do it that way. What we do in our church is, we have seventeen chapels scattered all through this needy city, seventeen of them. And" I said, "every day of the year and every night, those seventeen chapels are helping those needy people, supporting their families, bringing a doctor to them, finding a place for them to live, finding a job for that man, trying to lift him out of the gutter and put his feet on a rock. We are doing that every day of the year, and have been for years and years." I said, "I think that is the way to do, supporting the work; carrying it through, not just when the spirit might move me, but a steadfast commitment. That is the way to do it. And God honors and blesses. I couldn’t recount how He does."
I have to close. One of the men in our church, God bless him, an affluent man, came to me last year with an envelope. He had his covenant card, his pledge card, had it in an envelope, and he brought it to me and placed it in my hand. Well, I just started visiting with him, not about that envelope. I never mentioned it except to thank him for it, pray God would bless him for doing it. And I didn’t talk about the envelope, didn’t talk about his pledge, didn’t talk about his covenant with God. I just was visiting with him, and as you know, if you have visited with me, chances are it is not long until I am talking about the Lord, talking about the church, and talking about the things we are doing for Jesus, and just talking, just talking about the Lord and about our work. And as I talked to that man, he reached over and took that envelope out of my hand, and he said, "Here, preacher, let me have that back. Let me have that back." And he tore it up. He said, "I have decided to double my pledge." I never said anything to him about doubling his pledge. I never said anything to him about giving more to God. I never mentioned it. I was just visiting with him about Jesus and our dear church and the work of the Lord. And, somehow, as we talked, the Spirit of the Lord put in his heart, "I am going double what I have ever done for God."
I wish it could be that way with us; no coercion, no commandment, no duty. Lord, Lord, how could I ever repay Thee for the blessings that enrich my life, golden mercies that follow my days, beside the precious, heavenly promises that are yet to come. I would like to be like that Samaritan, who fell down at the feet of Jesus and said, "Lord, Lord, just thank Thee forever" [Luke17:15-16].
Now may we stand together? Wonderful, wonderful, Savior, if every breath that we breathe and every effort of our hands were dedicated to Thee, it wouldn’t suffice. You have overwhelmed us. As the psalmist says, You have loaded us down with Thy benefits [Psalm 68:19]. They are more than we can carry, the goodnesses of God to us. And our Lord, we have it in our souls to bring a minchah unto Thee. This is a token of our love. Maybe some of us, a great proportion; but all of us an offering, a tithe, a gift, a remembrance, a thanksgiving, just loving Thee, Lord. Then, Master, when You sum us up, when You total us up, may it be a surprise to the whole world what God has done through us. Oh, bless our dear people!
And in this moment that we pray; a family you, to put your life with us in this dear, dear church; a couple you, to come; one somebody you, "Today, I want to take Jesus as my Savior." Or, "Today, I’m answering a call of God in my heart, and I am coming."
Remember my wicker basket on either side. If you want to come and make a special gift to the Lord, you put it there and you can go back to your seat. But if you come to give your heart to Jesus, or to put your life in our church, stay here with me, stand here with me. And dear people, one other thing, nobody leave while we make the invitation. Then after the invitation, all of you who want to leave, I am going to give you the privilege to leave. If you don’t want to stay while we receive our members, I am going to give you opportunity to go. But this critical moment, when our people are praying and the Spirit of God is wooing and inviting, stay here. Nobody move, nobody leave except to come forward, and God bless you as you come.
And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us this holy and heavenly and saving hour, in Thy dear name, amen. Now, while we sing our appeal; down that stairway, down this aisle, "Here I come, pastor." God bless you as you respond, while we sing.